Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spending Time with MPEG-4’s Champion

There is a saying among industry insiders and private equity investors that when it comes to disruptive technologies you are never wrong…just early.

I suspect this cliché lacks humor to David Price and the folks at Harmonic. That’s because they have invested millions of dollars, countless hours and much emotion championing the adoption of MPEG-4 by broadcasters, multi-media developers and other content delivery providers.

The economic conditions of the past 18 months sure haven’t helped Harmonic’s cause. Simply put, Price and company have been perhaps the loudest voice for change to a next generation technology during the worse economic recession since the Great Depression.

Yet, despite this grind Price was remarkably upbeat when we sat down for 30 minutes at the Satellite 2010 conference.

He was still buzzing about a well attended panel he moderated that explored the business case for an infrastructure upgrade to MPEG-4. This panel wasn’t a collection of desperate vendors making a plea for budget. Rather, it featured profile technical decision-makers in the broadcast space from CBS Broadcasting, HBO and start-up FreeHD Canada.

Price’s commitment to MPEG-4, including his volunteer role with the MPEG Industry Forum, is not solely altruistic. Harmonic has its business interests aligned with MPEG-4 adoption through its Electro 8000 product line, introduced last year at the IBC Conference.

The product’s feature set certainly is impressive, from enabling MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 content distribution from a single platform to built in audio leveling – a real must-have for broadcasters.

Is this the year MPEG-4 moves from “nice to have” to must have upgrade?

Price sure thinks so. “People get fired for being too aggressive, yet also for being too conservative,” he says. “Harmonic had an excellent quarter during Q4 2009 when it came to MPEG-4. We’re seeing customers wanting to buy.”

This post was first published in Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) "What's New at Satellite 2010" blog.

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